Donald began playing trumpet aged eight in Minnesota, and her family relocated to California when she was a teenager. Beginning in the early 1960s, she began touring with both rhythm and blues and jazz ensembles throughout the US, and played with John Coltrane, Stanley Cowell, Richard Davis, Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Prince Lasha, and Sonny Simmons. In 1964, Donald and Simmons married; one of their children, Zarak Simmons, became a percussionist. Starting in the late 1970s, she began recording with her own ensembles while living in Washington, for the label Cadence Jazz. Her sidemen at the time included her son Zarak and Rahn Burton.
After experiencing a series of strokes rendering her unable to actively play live, Donald lived in an assisted care facility in Olympia, Washington, from 1998 until her death in 2013.